The ‘Heart of Kirriemuir’ Returns Home

Silver Freedom casket and Burgess ticket presented to J M Barrie by the Burgh of Kirriemuir in 1930, acquired by Angus Council Cultural Services in 2013 with an NFA grant of £4,230.

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Wednesday morning 24th July 2013, full of trepidation after a fortnight’s holiday but fortified by a cup of the best arabica, I pluck up the courage to open my email to find message after message – ‘BARRIE CASKET MUST HAVE!’ – ‘Barrie Freedom Casket’ – ‘Barrie Burgess Ticket’ – ‘Barrie Kirrie Casket Auction’. Could this be something to do with Peter Pan author and proud son of Kirriemuir Sir James Matthew Barrie? Having read one or two emails I do the only sensible thing possible … go to get another cup of coffee.

It would appear that the silver casket and illuminated Burgess ticket conferring the Freedom of the Burgh of Kirriemuir on J M Barrie in 1930 was to be auctioned in Taunton on the 8th of August. The auction estimate was £2,000 – £3,000. A swift noodle round the web confirms that this valuation is unrealistically low and a quick look at our purchase fund confirms that the coffers are empty. What now? More coffee, obviously, then a call to NFA to explore the options. From this point onward everything falls into place. I get a sound appraisal of the casket from staff at National Museums Scotland and, having kindly given the silverware a ‘once over’ on our behalf, colleagues from the Museum of Somerset give it the ‘thumbs up’. Before we know it we are making the winning bid on the telephone, safe in the knowledge that we have pledges of financial support from NFA and the Art Fund.

JM Barrie receiving the freedom casket

The Provost of Kirriemuir presenting the Freedom of the Burgh to J M Barrie

The casket and Burgess ticket are now on show in Kirriemuir Museum along with the ‘Lockit Book’ Freedom Register and the silver pen (in the form of a quill!) used by Barrie to sign it. There is even an invoice for £38 for the purchase of the freedom casket at auction in 1938 after Barrie’s death. It cost 200 times that amount to secure it in 2013!

A Pathe newsreel of the 1930 presentation ceremony suggests that a good time was had by all. The Provost declared that Barrie was being presented with the ‘Heart of Kirriemuir’, a reference to the town’s coat of arms on the front face of the casket. The mood was even merrier after lunch when Barrie officially opened the Cricket Pavilion and Camera Obscura he gifted to Kirriemuir, the town of his birth.

Willie Milne
Museums and Galleries Manager
Angus Council Cultural Services

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